Fast Track Vote Not the End Game but the Beginning of Another Round of Struggle Over TPP and Other Obama Rigged Trade Deals
Kevin Zeese is co-director of PopularResistance.org and It’s Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy. He’s also an attorney who is one of the original organizers of the National Occupation of Washington, DC. He has been active in independent and third party political campaigns including for state legislative offices in Maryland, governor of California and U.S. president, where he served as press secretary and spokesperson for Ralph Nader in 2004. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006 and was the only person ever nominated by the Green Party, Libertarian Party and Populist Party.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
Today the Senate passed fast track for TPP, and it’s all a rather complicated process, but according to our next guest unlike what some pundits are saying, the fight ain’t over. That is, those people who are opposing TPP, that’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new big global free trade agreement. So now joining us in the studio is Kevin Zeese.
Thank you for joining us, Kevin.
KEVIN ZEESE, ORGANIZER, POPULARRESISTANCE.ORG: Happy to be here, thanks.
JAY: So where are we in the process, first of all? Because it’s rather complicated. There’s two pieces of legislation, and there’s different stages of approval. Just go through that.
ZEESE: Sure. We’re basically at the stage of dealing with giving the President trade promotion authority, which we call fast track because it means Congress has a very cursory role. They just debate it on the two floors. No amendments, an up or down vote, if the President has that power. They also had to pass a separate piece for labor assistance called TAA, which was to provide assistance to workers who lose their job because of trade.
So this is all procedural. This is how they’re going to approach the trade issue. They could have approached it without fast track. Had committee hearings, had expert witnesses, took testimony, debated in committee rooms, taken citizen input, had a floor debate, amendments on the floor. They could have done that normal process. Instead they’re going to fast track it through now and give Obama a much easier–he can sign the treaty now, or at least agree to the final treaty. Then it goes to Congress for 60 days. After that 60 day period Obama can sign it, then Congress has the process of going through fast track.
So what we won in this debate was 60 additional days to educate and mobilize our base for the next fight, which is the most important fight. That’s each of the three big treaties that Obama’s currently negotiating. TPP’s going to be the first one, Trans-Pacific Partnership. Covers all the global Pacific except for China, they’re excluded. And there’s the Atlantic version that’s being negotiated with Europe right now. In a lot of trouble in Europe, the Europeans are fighting about that very aggressively and there’s not going to be as much unity there as there is in the Pacific.
And then the bigger one, the most important one I think, is the Trade and Services Agreement, called TISA. Fifty countries. Services is 80 percent of our economy and includes everything from postal services, which they want to privatize, educational services, health services, accounting services, financial services, water, food, all these services are going to be part of that one. That’s the big one, that’s going to be the third one, most likely.
JAY: Okay, so just to get clear again. Right now they’re just going to give the President authority. The House still has to do this, but right now it looks like they’re likely to pass the fast track authority.
ZEESE: The [crosstalk] no. The, actually the House passed fast track first, then the Senate passed it. The Senate’s now going to pass tomorrow–.
JAY: Today’s Wednesday. So Thursday–.
ZEESE: Today’s Wednesday. Thursday the Senate’s going to–.
JAY: Most people watching this are going to be watching this Thursday morning.
ZEESE: In the future, yeah.
JAY: No, on Thursday morning.
ZEESE: Okay. And so on Thursday they’re going to pass the labor assistance, that will then go to the House. They’ll pass that. And so both those bills, the fast track and the trade assistance, will go to Obama together .
JAY: So he’s in a rush, he wants fast track. He wants to do it quickly. So we should assume he’s probably going to sign quickly.
ZEESE: Oh no, no question. Yes.
JAY: And then you’re saying it’s 60 days after he hands it back, under fast track.
ZEESE: And then, then they have to finish negotiating the TPP, which the U.S. Trade Representative says is 95 percent complete. So they have to finish negotiating and they got one [inaud.]
JAY: With various countries.
ZEESE: With all 12 countries together. Once that’s completed then they can initial it, then it goes to Congress, 60 days to look at it before the fast track process really starts, the time clock starts on how much time they have to go to the House floor and the Senate floor. So we got, through this process we got an extra 60 days.
JAY: Now, when you say look at it, one of the big critiques of this whole process is that most people can’t look at it. At what point does this go public? You’d think it at some point has to be a public document before they actually vote and sign it, don’t they?
ZEESE: I’m very curious to see what the 60-day time period’s going to mean. Is it only going to be for Congress to see it, is it going to be still classified so we can’t see it, is it going to be summaries, is it going to be the full treaty, has it been blacked out.
Right now when members of Congress go to see the TPP in the basement of the Capitol building under the eyes of someone from the U.S. Trade Rep’s office with no pencil, paper, computer, phone, or anything to record it, they only get to see the TPP, not the other two treaties, and they get summaries mostly, and a lot of blacked-out pages. So even when they go through the process of trying to see the TPP, they don’t get much.
JAY: So someday this has to go public. It can’t get litigated.
ZEESE: You know, the crazy thing is that in the agreement itself it says it doesn’t go public till four years after it’s passed.
JAY: Well, how does anyone even litigate it, then?
ZEESE: It’s crazy.
JAY: Like, one of the powers of this treaty is corporations can sue countries, and it violates sovereign rights to pass various environmental, other healthcare, health and safety regulations. As a corporation you can’t litigate this, except we know some corporations actually have seen the document already.
ZEESE: A lot of, hundreds of corporations have not only seen it, they’ve seen it in live time so they can make edits and suggest add this paragraph, take out that paragraph. They have actual involvement in helping to draft it. Hundreds of corporations, all of our favorites, you know. Monsanto and Halliburton, and all the big banks. All our favorite corporations have the access to it to help write it, and that’s what we’re worried about. They see it, we don’t.
JAY: And some union leaders, [inaud.]
ZEESE: They get to see it but they only get to see a limited section. They get to see the labor section. And the union–labor leaders who have seen it have published a report saying that it was inadequate and they were not pleased with the way it was going. So they’ve been let in to see it but they have no influence. They don’t get–their views don’t get listened to.
JAY: Okay, just a final–quickly. Some of the no votes, it’s kind of a strange alliance here. You have on one side people like Sherrod Brown, maybe Elizabeth Warren. On the other side you have Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio. Very different interests, one would think. But these people are voting no. why?
ZEESE: Well, it’s really a debate between the populists and the elitists. It’s really a debate between people and money, and that’s really what the dividing line is. And I think someone like Ted Cruz, while he of course raises money for his presidential campaign, he also has a populist kind of piece of the Republican side. Sherrod Brown is certainly a populist on the Democrat side. So is Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. And so it really is that kind of division. It’s more about money. Do you put money first, or people first? And that’s really what it comes down to.
JAY: Ted Cruz puts people before money?
ZEESE: He does, for his party. I mean, for people on the, who are Conservative, they see Ted Cruz as fighting for what their populist beliefs are, so yes.
JAY: Some people are suggesting Cruz and Rubio, it’s primarily they don’t want to give Obama any more power. That’s what it’s mostly [inaud.]
ZEESE: That’s one of the aspects of this. Is that–and a lot of members of Congress, Harry Reid for example, they don’t want to give more power to the executive at any time, because this is really a shift of power from the Constitution. The Commerce Clause says the Congress has the power to regulate trade between nations. And people don’t think we should be shifting that power to the President. With the Republicans right now there’s also the personal view. They don’t like President Obama, they don’t trust President Obama, and so they don’t want to give it to him, as well.
But there’s also a general view that we should really have the Congress playing their role and not giving up their Constitutional power to any president. And so I think that’s part of it, but it’s also personal.
JAY: Okay. In terms of the, for those people that want to stop TPP, your point is the fight ain’t over. On Thursday, this is really a beginning of a process that’s probably going to culminate towards the end of August and September.
ZEESE: Right. I’ve seen a lot of anger in response to this. People have seen how this is a kind of choreographed corruption, we just saw in Congress. They need 218 votes to pass it in the House. They got exactly 218 votes. That doesn’t happen by accident. You had 60 votes in the Senate, they needed exactly 60 votes. This was choreographed and planned. FDR said nothing happens in politics by accident. If it happened, it was planned. And that’s true here. Nancy Pelosi did a great job of fooling a lot of progressive Democrats, thinking that she was working with them, helping them. In the end she did what she said she was going to do, which was to find a way to yes. And she did, and that was–she damaged us greatly. I think she–.
JAY: By us, you mean [people opposed to TPP.]
ZEESE: People opposed to TPP, opposed to this corporate, globalized, rigged trade system that is being put in place. When we went into the House debate the first time, there were 19-20 votes against us. Those who, you know, who try to stop this. By the time we got to the House floor it was 28, exactly to get them 218. When they had a revote on it, not one of those 28 changed. If there was a real Democratic leader who opposed this, she could have changed a handful of votes. All it would take is a handful of votes and we would have won .
We did win, by the way, on TAA, which should have ended the vote then. We won with 302 votes, stopping TAA in the House, it was all part of one bill. When TAA failed we should have won. Boehner called for a revote, that’s normally a two-day event. You vote in two days on the same thing. Instead in two days he voted to, he extended the vote to July 30, and they reshuffled the deck. And instead of revoting on what they lost on, they did everything they could to avoid revoting what they lost on. Manipulated the system completely.
And you can–it’s just really ugly to see the way Congress behaved in this. The corruption was choreographed and very obvious.
JAY: All right. Thanks for joining us.
ZEESE: Happy to be here.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.